Mujeres Unidas Avanzando (MUA, formerly Mujeres Unidas en Acción), has been meeting the educational needs of the low-income Latinx community as well as other English Language Learners (ELLs) for 43 years, helping them build skills for full, self-sufficient lives. MUA’s mission is to provide low-income Latinx and other immigrants the tools needed to empower themselves and effect liberating changes in their lives; those of their families; and society at large. During the winter of 1979, while teaching residents of low-income housing how to set up insulation material, a group of We-Can volunteers discovered that a great number of Latinas did not know how to speak English. The majority was low-income, unmarried mothers with little or no education in their native language. We-Can volunteers gathered in a local church basement to teach English to low-income mothers. Our program has grown from a handful of students gathering in a basement under the tutelage of volunteers to an 8,900 square foot building serving 271 students and 14 children a year.
MUA’s students are primarily low-income immigrant women from Latin America who reside in Boston. Students and their families live in virtually all of Boston’s neighborhoods, with half alone coming from Dorchester. A clear majority is single heads of households and recipients of Public Assistance, Section 8, WIC, and SNAP (formerly food stamps). Many are survivors of physical or psychological abuse and possess few or no job skills. About 50% of students come from shelters. The day program is open to women and those who identify as women due to MUA’s domestic violence component. The evening program welcomes both men and women, and roughly 20 men take classes in the evening program. MUA serves other English Language Learners (ELLs) living in Boston, including but not limited to students from Afghanistan, Cape Verde, Haiti, and Vietnam.
able to earn a living wage to support themselves and their families.
At MUA, the objectives of our program are to help girls, women, and men during their enrollment to:
• Improve at least one Student Performance Level (SPL) in English;
• Pass the five subject exams to obtain their High School Equivalency;
• Master technology and gain health care sector skills to develop marketable job skills;
• Enter employment for the first time or increase current earnings by minimum of 25% and/or obtain benefits;
• Complete literacy workshops to train on how to create a home environment for their children that is conducive to literacy development;
• Identify and apply for college and vocational training, and stay enrolled to complete degree or certificate programs;
• Obtain free or reduced-cost health care; identify health safety nets and health resources within the community; and apply for Mass. Health;
• And/or secure stable, safe housing and remove themselves from contact with abusive spouses or partners.